The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Learning to be me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door

February 21, 2017

Born and raised in the U.S., Rosa didn’t understand the struggles her family faced being illegal immigrants.

“I never knew why my parents were so quiet,” Rosa said. “I knew something was different about my family.”

Rosa’s family risked everything to give their children a better education and chance at a successful career. They crossed the border illegally in pursuit of their children’s dreams.

“I only hear what they went through,” Rosa said. “I consider myself lucky I was born after the fact.”

Rosa grew up in California, and her family shared a living space with several other Latino families.

“It was a small space for a lot of people who needed a safe haven,” Rosa said.

The NKU graduate assistant said she remembers inviting a friend over for the first time and feeling out of place in her own home.

Her friend looked at her sideways, she said, when she noticed Rosa and her family had shoes on inside their home. Rosa said the way her friend looked at the religious decor on the walls made her feel even more embarrassed and concerned.

“I got worried that she was scared of me and I didn’t want that,” Rosa said. “I wanted to be like everyone else.”

Rosa’s sister inspired her to combat the isolation she felt among her peers. She pressured Rosa to be proud of her Latina heritage.

“There was a point in time she made me feel guilty for being ashamed of my own culture,” Rosa said.”I was giving up who I was.”

Rosa admitted feeling ashamed of her parents when they would speak Spanish around other families.

“It was awful,” Rosa said. “I feel horrible now with how embarrassed I would get.”

Despite her family’s income, Rosa said she would beg her mom to take her shopping for clothes other students were wearing.

“Even though we couldn’t afford it, she always gave it to me,” Rosa said. “She wanted me happy.”

Rosa noticed her family’s immigration status when her older sister started applying to colleges. She became passionate to go to college after watching her sister get a full ride.

“She was undocumented,” Rosa said. “Seeing her struggle to push through that made me upset.”

Rosa said her family just received their visas last year, and she said they will continue to work with lawyers to become U.S. citizens.

When her family moved to Cincinnati, they were the only Latino family in the subdivision, but Rosa said being a minority is not something to fear anymore.

Rosa is working on her Master’s degree in social work in the hopes to touch the lives of other families and communities.

“It makes me sad to watch students struggle to find themselves like I did,” Rosa  said. “I want to be here for them.”

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